MAY 2015

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In This Issue
D-FW Housing Market Rated Hottest in the Nation by


The Dallas-Fort Worth area has the hottest housing market in the country, according to a new report by

Analysts rated the top markets in April based on demand for housing and how long it takes to sell a property.


After the D-FW area, other cities near the top of the 15 hot housing markets list include Santa Rosa, Calif.; Denver; Boston and San Diego.


"As the market shows strong signs of health and improvement during the start of spring home buying season, these 15 markets are the best in the country from both a supply and demand perspective," economist Jonathan Smoke said in the report.


"Sellers are seeing listings move between 29 and 49 days, more quickly than in the rest of the country and at an accelerating pace from just last month - an average of five days faster," he said.


"Meanwhile, these markets are especially attractive to buyers, as listings are viewed two to three times more often than the national average."

So far in 2015, median single-family home sales prices in North Texas are up about 9 percent from a year ago. And the number of homes sold in the area so far this year by Realtors is 4 percent higher than in 2014.


"The large increases in price appreciation in Dallas and Houston appear to be slowing down slightly," Smoke said. "But it is tough to say that some returning to normal wouldn't have occurred anyway, as these markets traditionally don't see that kind of price appreciation."


He said there are some signs that Houston's housing market will moderate, but not Dallas. "Dallas is one of the top 15 hottest, so it's definitely not slowing down," Smoke said. "I'm expecting Houston to see some slowdown from the crazy pace of last year, but no pullback as the economy appears to be diversified enough to survive a downturn in energy.


"But Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio seem poised for continued strong momentum, and as a result this may be the year that Dallas can clearly earn bragging rights over Houston." Texas home sales rose by more than 4 percent in the first quarter of 2015.


Record low supply


The increase came even as the supply of properties on the market in the state dropped to an all-time low, according to a new report by the Texas Association of Realtors.


"The first quarter of the year is typically a slow period for homebuying and selling, so we were thrilled to see strong home sales gains statewide in the first part of 2015," Scott Kesner, chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors, said in the report. "Market conditions are ripe for another competitive summer selling season in 2015," he said.


Real estate agents sold 57,818 homes in Texas in the first quarter of 2015 - a 4.16 percent increase from the same quarter last year.

The supply of houses listed for sale with agents across the state dropped to just 3.1 months - 8.8 percent less than a year earlier.


Statewide median home sales prices rose 7.8 percent from first quarter 2014.

"The demand for Texas real estate is still strong, but our state's housing market growth will not be sustainable if high homeownership costs, low housing inventory and unfunded transportation needs are allowed to continue," Kesner said.


Texas increases


The increase in Texas home sales in the first quarter was good news given the decline in employment in the state's energy industry. "The impact of falling oil prices has not yet hit Texas real estate, especially in its metro areas," Jim Gaines, economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, said in the report. "Texas home sales could experience a slowdown in the last half of 2015 and, depending on when and at what level oil prices stabilize, end 2015 at a lower level than previous years."


Among the major Texas markets, the biggest increase in home sales was in San Antonio - up 12.22 percent from last year. Dallas-area sales were up about 1.8 percent and sales rose by 4.4 percent in Fort Worth from 2014 levels.


Real estate agents in North Texas say they could sell more houses if there were properties on the market.


In the Dallas area, there was only a 1.8-month supply of houses listed for sale with agents, according to the Texas Realtors' report. "Homes are being built as quickly as possible, yet most are not in the price range where inventory is needed most - the entry-level market," Gaines said. "Interest rates are still low, but tight lending standards, rising home prices and slim inventory have created a tough market for first-time homebuyers."


Hot spots


Hottest markets based on April demand for housing and how long it takes to sell a property in major markets across the nation.


1. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington

2. Santa Rosa, Calif.

3. Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif.

4. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo.

5. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass./N.H.

6. San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif.

7. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro

and Franklin, Tenn.

8. Ann Arbor, Mich.

9. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Mich.

10. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.

11. Boulder, Colo.

12. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.

13. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, Calif.

14. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif.

15. Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, Calif.



Real Estate Regrets
by Fox Business



A home is likely the most expensive thing you'll ever buy, and you don't want to second guess your decision and have buyer's remorse. The problem with regrets is that you can't always fix them, and if you can it'll cost you money.


"You don't want to be reminded of a bad decision day in and day out because you're living in this house," says Cara Ameer, broker associate and Realtor at Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty based in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. "You can run, but you can't hide from your real estate regrets."


Buying a home has a different level of financial responsibility, and most people can't afford to bungle it. "The process to buy and sell is by-design time intensive and expensive, so nailing it the first time is important to both your financial and lifestyle freedom," says Mazen Fawad, CEO of Agent Ace.


There's always an initial regret with every purchase, but you want to work to minimize these. "There's always stress in the change factor because each property brings its own set of problems," says Ameer.


Research can help you avoid buyer's remorse though. As you make key decisions about what you can and can't live with, experts discuss potential regrets and how to avoid them.


Emotional Purchase


"Don't buy the first house you see - shop around," says Michael Corbett, real estate expert and author of "Before You Buy!: The Homebuyer's Handbook for Today's Market". "You need to see that the house you're purchasing is really the one you want and the best one for you at the moment." When you get caught up in a bidding war for a home and have to make last minute decisions, you may not end up with the home you really want.

Be sure to look at as many properties as possible so that even if it becomes an emotional decision, you still know your financial limits. "Making an offer on the spot is okay as long as you've done your homework," he adds.


Noisy Neighborhood


You may have fallen in love with the home, but after moving in, find the neighborhood is too noisy. "You want to spend time at three different times a day wherever you're buying: first thing in the morning, at rush hour when people are coming home from work, and in the evening," says Corbett.


Experts also recommend knocking on a few neighbors' doors, especially if you're looking at a condo. "Talk to other people in the building or neighborhood and ask if there's anything about the property that people complain about," says Ron Shuffield, President of EWM Realty/Christie's International Real Estate in Miami, Fla. You may not be able to tolerate noise from loud trucks early in the mornings, trains that run at odd hours or ambulance sirens from a nearby hospital. "There are more questions to ask in an urban environment because you don't want any unhappy surprises once you move in," he says.


Wrong Location


The wrong location may not meet your lifestyle needs in years to come, as well as affect resale value in the future. "Maybe later in life, you may need to send children to school and you want to own a home in school district that you like," says Shuffield. Also consider if your home is near public transportation and other amenities like public parks and shopping that you may enjoy.


How the location may change is important, too. "Google the area to know what's being discussed in that city," says Shuffield. "If you know there's a giant shopping mall erected behind your house, for most people, that wouldn't be a good thing."


Long Commute


Despite the time you spent at the house before you bought, you may not have realized how bad traffic in the area really is and that the store or your child's school is 15 and not five minutes away. There's not much you can do short of moving, which will cost a lot of money, experts say, but doing extra due diligence before you buy can help you avoid this.


"You definitely need to test drive the commute during the times you'd be going to these activities," says Ameer. Drive around the neighborhood during lunchtime and when school's letting out, and do the commute from the home to your work, the grocery store, schools or wherever else you'll frequent. "Do the test drive a few different times to and from a few different places so you get a feel for if there's something you might regrets," she adds.


Wrong Layout and Features


Some people may want a pool so badly that they didn't look closely at the floor plan to figure out whether it works for them. "You need to think about the whole house and not just the most appealing aspect of the house," says Shuffield. "You can install a pool, but changing a floor plan is harder." Make a checklist of what you'd like in your house, such as parking, closets or a certain layout, for example, so that you don't forget about what you're looking for in a home.




Buying a home that you can't afford may prevent you from reaching other financial goals. "Determine how much house you can afford, and try desperately to cling to that price range," says Corbett.

Before you make an offer, figure out what that new home will really cost each month and make sure your budget can handle the mortgage payment, taxes, insurance, any HOA fees, utilities and maintenance, moving expenses, closing costs, and any renovations you'd like to make.

"If you're buying a condo, you want to know the obligations of the organizations," says Shuffield. Find out if there are any upcoming assessments for needed repairs, since these will be passed onto the residents.


Money Pit In Disguise


Experts suggest having a thorough inspection and asking the inspector questions, even if you're paying for the house with cash. This can save you money if the home's systems need repair or replacements as you can then negotiate for certain fixes.

Whether the inspector finds all the home's problems, you will once you start remodeling. "You can't see what you can't see, and when you start opening up the walls, you may find a lot more hidden problems that an inspection can find," says Ameer. "You have to bite the bullet and correct it. Once it's done, it's done. When you correct a problem, use materials that will prevent the problem from returning."


Texas Housing Inventory at a All-Time Low
by Housing Wire


If you want to buy a house in Texas, you might be left wanting, because housing inventory in the Lone Star state just hit an all-time low, according to a new report from the Texas Association of Realtors.


The latest edition of the Texas Quarterly Housing Report showed that housing demand remained strong in the first quarter of 2015, with home sales posting "unseasonal gains."


According to the report, 57,818 homes were sold in Texas in the first quarter of 2015, a 4.16% increase from the same quarter of 2014. "This is a "significant change" from the first half of last year, when Texas home sales were essentially flat, the Texas Association of Realtors said in a release.


"The first quarter of the year is typically a slow period for homebuying and selling, so we were thrilled to see strong home sales gains statewide in the first part of 2015," said Scott Kesner, chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors. "Market conditions are ripe for another competitive summer selling season in 2015."


Thanks to that increase in home sales, monthly housing inventory continued to drop for the first three months of 2015, falling to a new all-time low of 3.1 months in the first quarter.


That's a decrease of 8.82% from 2014's first quarter and is less than half the 6.5-month level that the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University cites as a balanced housing market.


"Homes are being built as quickly as possible, yet most are not in the price range where inventory is needed most - the entry-level market," said Jim Gaines, Ph.D., economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. "Interest rates are still low, but tight lending standards, rising home prices and slim inventory have created a tough market for first-time homebuyers."


According to the report, the median price for Texas homes was $186,500 in the first quarter of 2015, a 7.8% increase from the same time period last year. The average price increased 6.99% to $240,303.

This year-over-year increase of 6% to 8% is nearly double Texas' historical increase of 4.1% annually, the report said.


"The demand for Texas real estate is still strong, but our state's housing market growth will not be sustainable if high homeownership costs, low housing inventory and unfunded transportation needs are allowed to continue," Kesner said. "That's why state legislators are working on long-term solutions now that will provide much-needed transportation funding and tax relief to Texas homeowners."


Gaines said that despite the strong start to year, Texas could be still looking at a down year. "The impact of falling oil prices has not yet hit Texas real estate, especially in its metro areas," Gaines said. "Texas home sales could experience a slowdown in the last half of 2015 and, depending on when and at what level oil prices stabilize, end 2015 at a lower level than previous years."




In Hot Housing, 6 Ways to Win a Bidding War

The housing market is still in the early spring of recovery, but if you're a buyer, you know it's already hot out there.

Very tight supply in markets across the nation is leading to bidding wars. Half the homes sold by real estate brokerage Redfin in the past three months had multiple offers. One-third of all U.S. properties sold in March went at or above asking price, according to the National Association of Realtors. That's hot. So how do you emerge the winner in a bidding battle?


1. Get your financial house in order-and get as much cash as you can carry 

Get preapproved for a loan. Now. Today's mortgage market is still relatively tight, and home sellers are leery of loans that might not be set in stone. If you can, bring cash to the table. Sellers are worried about appraisals coming in low and loans not closing, so be ready to cover the difference with cash. Note to Manhattan co-op buyers: Get your references written and ready to go, and have a strong cover letter set.

"Price is certainly not the only factor sellers are evaluating. They're also weighing the 'risk' of any particular buyer if they require a loan."-Avi Galanti, real estate agent, Fairweather Group

2. Come in fast and strong

Be the first offer, and don't insult. This is not the time to lowball, not with the lack of listings out there. Nothing turns a seller off more than someone undervaluing their prized possession. Come in either at or just slightly below asking, so they know you're serious.

"The first bid has more success. The seller already starts to visualize you occupying the house ... that person is the first artist on their blank slate."-Melanie Siben, real estate agent with Rutenberg Realty, certified negotiation expert

3. Escalation clause

This is an amount of money the buyer agrees to increase his/her offer, if there are other bids. So let's say the purchase price of the home is $400,000, but you expect it could go as high as $450,000. Put in an escalation clause saying you are willing to go as high as $460,000 (if you are). Make sure, however, that the clause also says the seller can only take the winning bid up to a level just above competing offers. In other words, if your competitors only go as high as $430,000, the seller can't expect you to pay $460,000, only, say, $431,000.

"The market will tell the seller what the home is worth, by way of no offers if they're overpriced, or multiple offers with escalations, if they're underpriced."-Avi Galanti  

4. Pre-inspection

Yes, this will cost you a few hundred dollars that may not come back to you, but yes, it can help in a super tight market. Ask to do a pre-inspection before submitting an offer.

"It'll be a cleaner offer and won't include a contingency that allows you (the buyer) to walk away. Sellers react very positively to offers that are non-contingent on home inspections."-Avi Galanti

5. Show the love

If you love, love, love the house, then let the seller know that, either directly or through your real estate agent. Don't be afraid to write a letter, send a picture of your kids and be specific.

"Let the seller know how much you feel connected to the home, more than being lovable yourself, show the spiritual connection-a favorite room and why that is a favorite room. The molding, the ceiling, the floor choice-why you belong there."-Melanie Siben

6. Be smart, not sappy

Buying a home is one of the most emotional things you will ever do. That said, keep it to yourself. Make sure you've fully researched the market: Look at the most recent comparable sales ("comps") and compare prices to a year ago, visit the local school, have coffee at the closest Starbucks and chat with the neighbors. See if there is a local listing service and scroll through recent posts. Then don't let your emotions steal your wallet. Don't overpay because you get all wrapped up in the heat of the competition. I don't care what house you're looking at, it's not the only house you can ever be happy in.

"I once fell in love with a gorgeous Tudor that was out of our price range. It was 2003, and banks were giving away money.There was heavy competition, so we bid ever higher, and I wrote a letter, telling the seller how much we adored the home and could picture our toddler twins growing up in the sun-filled family room and swinging in the stunning backyard. We won the bid, but then got cold feet on whether we could really afford the 'no-down payment, adjustable rate loan.' So we bailed and bought a cheaper home with a fixed-rate loan. Twelve years and a financial crisis later, who's the winner now?"-Diana Olick, CNBC real estate correspondent. 

Which of These 5 Money Personality Types are You?
by Daily Finance 

Personality types don't stop at "shy" vs. "outgoing" or "laid-back" vs. "worrier." People's money-management habits tend to fit into five financial personality categories, according to "The 5 Money Personalities: Speaking the Same Love and Money Language" by Bethany and Scott Palmer.

According to this book, there are five major personality types. If halves of a couple have opposing personality types, they might argue about money -- but handled the right way, these divergent types can also help them balance each other out and lead to a successful financial life together.

The key lies in knowing which major money personality type you and your mate fall under, and learning how can you live in harmony. Let's take a look.

The 5 Financial Personality Types

  1. Spenders believe money is meant for spending and have no trouble parting with their dollars. Sometimes they spend more money than they should or live above their means because they get caught up in the moment or see something they "have" to have. They usually spend first, think later. On the plus side, though, spenders tend to be generous with their friends and support charitable causes with ease.
  2. Savers love to get a good deal. These fervent bargain-hunters clip coupons, compare prices and hate to pay full price for anything. As easy as it is to get Spenders to part with their money, it's equally hard to get Savers to part with theirs. At their worst, Savers can be viewed as cheapskates who don't tip servers well or skip out on their portion of a shared bill. They can sometimes undervalue their time, as well. At best, however, Savers can be resourceful and creative, and they role-model a lifestyle that's not focused on material possessions.
  3. Risk-Averse personalities place security and planning as their No. 1 concerns. They prefer proven, safe investments and like to plan and research before making any big purchases. They view money as a tool that generates security. Their hesitation to part with money or seek out investment opportunities comes from their high priority on feeling financially stable. At best, Risk-Averse personalities can help a family maintain solid financial footing. At worst, they may forgo opportunities for growth due to risk concerns.
  4. Gamblers think money is all about the thrill of the chase. They'll take big risks if it means a potentially big payoff, and they're driven more by optimism and gut feeling than by details and analysis. At best, Gamblers may dramatically increase their wealth with a winning investment. At worst, however, Gamblers may lose it all.
  5. Flyers are best described as the "doesn't pay attention" personality type. These people simply don't think about money at all. They don't view money as a tool that creates security, status symbols or anything else. They'd be equally happy with a tiny or massive bank balance, and they believe that people who think too hard about money (like Savers and the Risk-Averse) are a bit obsessive.
Most people have a dominant and secondary personality type. If you felt drawn toward two categories, this could be the case for you.

How to Get Along With a Different Personality Type

Let's say that you and your mate have identified your personality types, and they're wildly different. Don't worry; you can leverage this into strength in your relationship, rather than a trigger for fights. Here are some ways to find common ground.
  • Understand. Talk to each other about your personalities and your short- and long-term goals. Don't judge each other; simply listen and try to understand where your partner is coming from.
  • Communicate and compromise. Whenever your financial personalities clash, talk out what underlying concerns a financial decision is raising. If you're Risk-Averse and worried about a huge upcoming expense, perhaps you could build a stronger emergency fund first. If you're trying to put together a joint budget but one of you is a Saver and the other is a Spender, maybe you could compromise that you'll save X dollars a month but also allow for X dollars a month in guilt-free spending money.
  • Work as a team. Your differences can actually complement and keep each other in check, making you stronger in the long run as a couple, but only if you work together. Learn to approach money decisions as a united front, not as a "me vs. you" argument, and you can find that sweet spot where you make the perfect team.